Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

Dark Shadows
I had high hopes for this movie, but sadly it seems as though Tim Burton completely bungled up any potential it may have held. The appeal of the supernatural soap opera source material is all there on screen, with an interesting cast of characters, a cool, gothic mansion backdrop, and love triangles between various creatures of the night that work, unlike the silly love triangles in Twilight. The production design is classic Burton fare, and the movie looks and sounds great, if nothing else (the soundtrack is awesome, for the most part). The problem is that apparently Burton felt the need to try and cram every plot point from the TV series into the movie…and the TV series had over 1000 episodes. This means that the movie of Dark Shadows is unfocused, and even though Johnny Depp’s Barnabas Collins is front and centre, we still get these weird little tangents that try to pay tribute to the plotlines of all the side characters. The result is that none of these tangental plots feel like they were set up, and none of them end in a satisfying fashion. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the central plot of the movie is – there are just too many characters and subplots, and because the movie ends up being oversaturated in them, it’s difficult if not impossible to get invested. It’s a shame, because this could have been the perfect anti-Twilight supernatural soap opera movie. Instead, it’s a mess. It’s not terrible, but it fails to leave a lasting impression. And the Alice Cooper cameo comes from a bit too far out of left field to be enjoyable.
2.5 out of 5

City of Ember
I really want to like this movie more than I actually do. I’ve watched City of Ember twice now, both times wanting to get really invested in it, but both times I only found myself half-interested. The premise is a neat one – the last human city to survivor a long-since-past apocalypse is hidden deep underground. A mysterious box, handed from city mayor to city mayor over a period of centuries is discovered, and seems to hold the key to finding the path out of the city of Ember and into the world above. I enjoy a lot of things about City of Ember. The cast is great, with Saorsie Ronan playing the intrepid Lina Mayfleet, and the supporting cast consisting of Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, and Martin Landau all give solid performances. The steampipe underground city looks terrific, and the production design is a joy to look at. I guess if the film had one major flaw that kept me from loving it as much as I want to, it’s that the story is very A-to-B. We’re given a great setup at the beginning of the film, but we know instantly where it’s going. SPOILER ALERT: our heroes are going to escape the city of Ember and make it to the world above. But then, this is based on a young adult novel, so I guess I shouldn’t have expected too much complexity. I wish there was a bit more nuance, a bit more subtext, and maybe a bit more social commentary, but overall, City of Ember is an enjoyable family film that may never live up to its potential, but is good for a watch with a young audience.
3 out of 5

A highly underrated and overlooked psychological horror film, Below is a ghost story set on board a World War 2 submarine whose crew share a horrible secret. Co-written by Darren Aronofsky, starring Bruce Greenwood, Olivia Williams, Zach Galifianakis (in an odd early role), and a cast of character actors that will make your jaw drop, this is exactly the kind of ghost movie that I love. It’s tense, it’s claustrophobic, and it leaves you wondering if there ever really was a ghost or if it was all in the minds of the characters. If you enjoyed the style of psychological horror that Aronofsky brought to Black Swan, then I highly recommend looking into Below. I still can’t believe how few people know about this movie.
4 out of 5

See you next Sunday for three more thrilling short reviews!

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